In the spirit of Halloween fun, one crew member crossed the line
Low-cost airline JetBlue issued a public apology after a female worker allegedly offended people online with her Halloween costume.
A Twitter user recently posted a photo of a JetBlue employee at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, who came to work dressed up as a homeless person from the Caribbean.
The woman wore tattered clothes and carried a makeshift sign that read, “Homeless, need help trying to get back home to Puerto Rico or Cuba.”
The post quickly drew the attention of other internet users, who didn’t find anything amusing about the airline employee’s Halloween costume.
Some commenters saw the stunt as offensive and unacceptable, especially given the fact that thousands of families in the Caribbean were displaced because of Hurricane Maria.
“This is offensive,” one Twitter wrote. “Not because the name of my country is there, that only reflects their ignorance, but the issue of being homeless is too delicate and it is not funny at all to not have roof, food or clean clothes.”
Meanwhile, another commenter questioned whether the JetBlue worker was aware of how much the recent disaster affected the lives of people.
“Not sure if they know but thousands of people lost everything due to Hurricane Maria and for this JetBlue employee to think it’s OK to joke about the epidemic of homelessness in Puerto Rico and the US is sickening and completely unacceptable,” the user wrote.
In an email sent to NBC, JetBlue’s Corporate Communications Manager Derek Dombrowski apologized to the public on behalf of the airline.
“In the spirit of Halloween, our crew members are welcome to celebrate in costume, but one crew member chose a costume that was clearly insensitive and not in line with our costume policy,” Dombrowski said.
“The situation was immediately addressed, and we apologize to anyone who was offended.”
Dombrowski stressed that JetBlue doesn’t allow costumes that are offensive to its staff or customers.
While social events such as Halloween parties can help promote a positive culture in the workplace, they also carry certain risks. If an employee’s costume or behaviour were to offend other people, it would fall on their employer to deal with the situation appropriately.
“Some employers may be tempted to dismiss or minimize a complaint about a costume thinking it isn’t work-related or isn’t of sufficient concern to warrant being taken seriously – but they do so at their peril,” said Elinor Whitmore, vice president of the Stitt Feld Handy Group.
“This is where an ounce of prevention would be worth a pound of cure and an employer likely should take reasonable steps to avoid this situation occurring in the first place.”
Whitmore advises companies to have guidelines for social events, such as Halloween parties, aside from their existing policies on acceptable workplace conduct and clothing. Employers should also be able to anticipate specific risks that may arise in such scenarios.